Leo Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina has changed readers’ lives for generations, but for one man in particular, the epic novel saved his life. Over at NPR, we learn the story of Mohamed Barud, a man who was sentenced to life in prison in Somalia for complaining about the conditions at the local hospital. During the years of his imprisonment, he exchanged knocks on the wall with an inmate in the next cell, creating a code for each letter of the alphabet. And, in this way, Barud read the entirety of Anna Karenina to the prisoner next door. “”[Barud] says it didn’t matter how different their lives seemed. This 19th-century Russian noblewoman seemed to be suffering exactly as he was. An honest suffering drives her into a state that Mohamed most feared for himself. Anna throws herself under a train and regrets it at the last moment. ‘I really cried. I felt for her.'”
Listen to Pnin author Vladimir Nabokov read “An Evening of Russian Poetry” in the style—nay, as “an impersonation, in iambic pentameter, with fancy rhymes”—of that book’s titular professor.
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death in 2016, he’s getting a makeover. Jeanette Winterson is writing a cover of The Winter’s Tale, and Anne Tyler will be revamping The Taming of the Shrew for a 21st century audience. While you wait, watch Joss Whedon’s update of Much Ado About Nothing.
New this week stateside is buzzed-about Booker shortlister Room by Emma Donoghue. Also out: Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, a new collection by “20 Under 40” lister Yiyun Li; Sigrid Nunez’s post-apocalyptic Salvation City; and a McSweeney’s-published memoir Half a Life by Chang and Eng author Darin Strauss.
Out this week: The Big Green Tent by Ludmila Ulitskaya; Hotels of North America by Rick Moody; A Wild Swan: And Other Tales by Michael Cunningham; Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker; and Rules for a Knight by the actor Ethan Hawke. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.